Since April 17th, 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israel have held a hunger strike calling for improvements to the inhumane living conditions of nearly 6,500 Palestinians at large. Their demands include regular family visits, better health care, installation of public telephones for monitored calls to their families, and an end to administrative detention.
Administrative detention is a widespread practice in Occupied Territories. It allows individuals to be detained without trial or evidence. While the sentences may only last up to six months, it may be renewed an indefinite number of times. Currently, hundreds of Palestinians are being held without charges.
In response to the hunger strike, a group of Israeli hardliners held a barbecue on Monday outside of Ofer military prison. The ‘party’ was meant to taunt the strikers and make their abstention more difficult. The group, which included Israeli soldiers, barbecued meat hoping that the scent and televised broadcasts would affect morale.
The event organizer, Ofer Sofer, was quoted in front of the two barbecue pits saying, “It is a bunch of terrorists that are threatening us with a hunger strike. We are happy that they are on strike. Let them have this strike as long as they want.”
On the other side of the checkpoint, several dozen Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces outside of the prison. The protesters had gathered in support of the hunger strikers and threw stones. The forces responded to protesters with tear gas, sound grenades, and rubber bullets.
The hunger strike was initiated by Marwan Bargouti who was moved to solitary confinement immediately afterwards. Barghouti is serving five life sentences over his role in the second Palestinian Intifada.
Some progress was made as Israel has reversed its previous decision to prevent the hunger strikers from accessing lawyers. However, despite the hospitalization of several participants, Israeli leaders continue to refuse negotiations with the prisoners. Protests continue to erupt in the West Bank.